Dr. Peter Koulen’s NIH-funded research program targets the development of new treatment strategies for disease that cause degeneration or acute damage of nerve cells in the central nervous system and the eye.
His team recently discovered self-defense mechanisms of nerve cells that allow the development of one such strategy. Under normal conditions, these mechanisms allow cells in the retina and brain to effectively communicate with their environment and to contribute to vision or cognitive tasks, respectively. At the same time and especially under conditions of disease and cellular stress, they also allow cells to notice and respond to changes in the environment caused by the outside world, genetic conditions or a combination of both that lead to disease and loss of nerve cell function, resulting in decreased visual or cognitive performance.
To this end, Dr. Koulen’s research is following two strategies:
- to boost the self-defense mechanisms of cells in the retina and brain.
- to interfere with failing defense functions of retina and brain cells,thereby preventing or slowing death of these cells and loss of visual or cognitive function.
The overall goal of Dr. Koulen’s research program is to uncover and identify novel therapy approaches that have the potential to be both preventative and therapeutic in nature. This will allow Dr. Koulen’s team at the Vision Research Center to complement existing treatment designs and rationales and to develop new treatment options for diseases affecting vision and brain function.
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